Sinovac donates vaccines to South American football

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Copa Libertadores 2020 Draw - CONMEBOL Headquarters - Luque, Paraguay - December 17, 2019 Conmebol President Alejandro Dominguez shows the tournament ball during the draw REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

ASUNCION (Reuters) - Chinese company Sinovac Biotech Ltd is to donate 50,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) to inoculate players, the president of the soccer body said on Tuesday.

Alejandro Dominguez said the immunization “will be focused on the principal squads of South American professional (teams) in top divisions, both male and female.

“This is the best news the South American football family could receive,” he added. “It’s a big step forward in beating the COVID-19 pandemic but it doesn’t mean we are going to let our guard down.”

Dominguez said the deal was brokered by Uruguayan president Luis Lacalle Pou and other Uruguayan officials.

He gave no details of how and when the doses would arrive or be administered but thanked Sinovac for “understanding that football is a key activity for the economy, culture and mental and physical health of South Americans.”

The agreement comes at a key moment for football in the region. The two main club competitions, the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana, are underway and involve significant travel across a massive continent.

The Copa America is also due to kick off in two months' time, with the tournament being co-hosted for the first time as both Argentina and Colombia are staging matches.

However, the pandemic is still raging across the continent, with Argentina last week tightening restrictions on movement after the number of cases soared and Brazil earlier this month seeing its daily death toll exceed 4,000 for the first time.

Speaking to CONMEBOL delegates in Paraguay, Dominguez said he hoped fans would be allowed in to watch Copa America matches.

The soccer organisation is working with the governments of Argentina and Colombia to “get the largest number of vaccines as possible so that our stadiums also have the opportunity of having crowds to cheer on their stars,” he said.

(Reporting by Daniela Desantis in Asuncion; writing by Andrew Downie in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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